Concerns over ‘significant’ rat problem at Bury St Edmunds allotment site

Complaints of rats at Cotton Lane Allotment site in Bury St Edmunds
Complaints of rats at Cotton Lane Allotment site in Bury St Edmunds

Concerns are mounting over a ‘significant’ rat infestation at an allotment site in Bury St Edmunds.

Allotment holder John Jones says rats have caused the Cotton Lane site to become such ‘a health hazard’ that he will no longer let his granddaughter visit.

“It’s not a nice thing to have near the centre of the town - sooner or later they’re going to spread to the nearby houses,” he said.

Steve Ohlsen, a plot holder of four years, said he too had been having problems with rats.

“It’s been happening about three or weeks now, since all the sweet corn disappeared one day and then we got some damage to our beetroot,” he said.

Of the two bait traps he has since set up, he said: “I just think it’s worth doing, even for the neighbours, because if we kill them off, and their young, hopefully we won’t get the problem next year.”

“We bring the grand kids down and the last thing we want is rats carrying disease,” he added.

Euan Allen, honorary president of the Cotton Lane Allotment Holders’ Association (CLAHA), said he believed allotment holders were ‘fighting a bit of a losing battle’ and the Bury Town Council, as landlord, needed to take coordinated action with its tenants.

He said the rat population was ‘significantly higher’ this year, perhaps because of the mild winter, and that the back of the site had experienced ‘devastating problems,’ with sweet corn ‘particularly badly affected’.

“I believe the scale of it does warrant the council taking a more proactive approach,” he said.

Cllr Stefan Oliver, town council chairman and allotment champion, said he was not aware of a big problem at the allotment site, but ‘it’s just the place rats will draw to’.

He said: “The tenants are responsible for keeping all kinds of pests under control on their plots, as best they are able. Obviously the landlord has got to be aware of whether this is being done satisfactorily or not and, if not, we’ve got to do what we can.

“If the rats have got on to the overall site, the landlord’s got to lend a hand, but this time of year the rats are drawing in from the fields and it’s a bit of a happy hunting ground for them.”

He added: “I have every sympathy for everybody who is plagued with it but everybody’s hands must be turned against them. If we see rats, they must be dealt with, and quickly, because one rat becomes 100 in no time at all.”

Plot holders are advised to minimise the availability of food by clearing crops at the end of the season and to bait where necessary.

A spokesman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council said: “Under relevant legislation, it is the responsibility of the landowner or occupier, or both, to carry out any works associated with the removal of rats from the allotments. The borough council no longer operates a pest control service, but will advise the town council as necessary.”